Eclectic Light
In Absentia, begun in 1979 as some urban landscapes at night slowly evolved into a longitudinal study of stylistic development and creativity. As the name suggests, the primary theme is absence. The images exclude people with the conclusion that Homo Sapiens is an egocentric species, dependent entirely on community, and that undue emphasis is place on the inclusion of people to the detriment of other consideration. The absence of people forces the viewer to consider the environment in isolation with the emphasis now on what humans have created as their environment. Given that God can be neither proven nor disproven and everyone sits somewhere on the continuum, the project asks the question, that if you looked out of your window and imagined a world without God, how different would that world look? As In Absentia has developed over the years, so has a parallel interest in psychology and psychiatry. The project on reflects on the changes that have occurred both thematically and stylistically in the context of Semiotics and psychoanalysis in photographic theory. Stylistically, the images, all night images, studiously avoid the specular highlights and harsh reflections from street lights and other light sources. The locations are treated as extensions of studio sets with the "rules" of studio lighting applied. As such the images have an uncommon aesthetic where in this project it literally is all about the light.
Following study of the psychology of creativity, Two and a Half Miles was a spontaneous experiment trying to implement facets of the work of the Behaviorists. Over about five hours I took the two and a half mile walk from the Opera House back to my hotel beginning around six pm. I challenged myself to attempt things that I thought would be impossible and to shoot on impulse and without premeditation. Every shot was hand held in often previously thought impossible lighting conditions. Without consideration the subject matter was based purely on an instinctive emotional response. The results were surprising with a success rate and quality far in excess of what I'd considered possible with new ideas forming, each opening new avenues of exploration. More surprising though was the retrospective assessment of what current literature had to say regarding the psychology and the brain functions involved in the exercise. While certainly generating new ideas, it was the revelation that visual style is form by the artists emotional response to individual works reinforcing and making habitual the generation of stylistic elements as solutions to visual problems.
Taking the principals utilised in Two and a Half MIles, as the name suggests takes those ideas and attempts to push both myself and my camera further in search of new limits. Shot in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York, only at night, the urban landscape has been almost entirely supplanted by street photography. The focus has shifted to the people, and exploring the people with a stitched together narrative from the collection of accumulated individual narratives. As explored in In Absentia the whole becomes greater than the sum of its component parts. On introspection, questions are raised as to whether the results are generated by being more creative. Creative research doesn't differentiate between imagination and problem solving. As in the early years of photography, there existed a division between the "Pictorialists " and the realists. My interpretation is that that division remains, and that realism is in fact a version of problem solving whereas the contemporary version of pictorialism falls into the more imaginitive style of thinking diferentiated by the probability of a situation depicted occurring in actuality.
Photography by Christopher Sheils
I'd never been to New York before. I love New York and I suspect that I'm not the first person to have said that. My introduction to New York was assisting in a medical emergency on the flight forty minutes out and handing over to the police and paramedics on the ground. I tend not to do the touristy thing when I go away. I want to find out what the place is really like. I want to explore, to speak to people, to observe them in their natural habitat and interpret. Unlike other projects, there is no pretense to conforming to genre, no consideration to whether the frontal, temporal or occipital lobes are engaged. The cerebellum is strangely irrelevant. This project is all about spontaneity, unconscious response to the environment. Its all about fun, and being and the existing only in the present. Over six days these are about a hundred and twenty of my favourite images that collectively are my record, my impression of the place. Ironically as the week went on I became sicker and sicker.
All images are the property of Christopher Sheils and may not be used wholly or in part without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, including copying, duplicating, printing, publishing (even on a web site), reproducing, storing, or transmitting by any means what so ever.